The Madagascar palm, also known by its scientific name Pachypodium lamerei, is a type of succulent flowering plant related to the cactus and plumeria. Despite the name, these plants are not actually palm trees. They do look similar to most palms, however, due to their long, slender bases covered in thorns and dark green leaves sprouting from the top. Most Madagascar palms do not exceed 15 feet (4.5 m) in height, and usually do not grow taller than 6 feet (2 m) when kept as houseplants. They are native to Madagascar, an island off the coast of south Africa.
Madagascar palms need full sun for proper growth, and exposure to temperatures under 30° Fahrenheit (1° Celsius) increases the risk of severe damage or death. Apart from the light and temperature requirements, the Madagascar palm requires little maintenance. Allowing the soil to dry out partially in between waterings is normally acceptable because this plant doesn't require constant moisture. The Madagascar palm goes into a dormant state in winter and needs little to no water during that time. Most people prefer to purchase young plants rather than starting them from seed due to their slow growth rate.
Temperate climates are considered ideal for growing Madagascar palms, but they can grow almost anywhere under proper conditions. If the plant appears to have died due to cold weather exposure, cutting away the dead pieces may help it come back. This plant almost always loses its leaves when exposed to cold or if in dire need of water, but will often recover. People who have potted Madagascar palms should bring them indoors during cold weather to avoid possible damage. If a Madagascar palm is planted outside and cold temperatures are imminent, covering it with a tarp may help ensure survival.
A healthy Madagascar palm will produce fragrant white flowers from late spring throughout the summer, and should grow at least 1 foot (30 cm) in height each year. Fertilization twice yearly with an all-purpose fertilizer should also benefit the health of these plants. Madagascar palms are normally very hardy plants, but they can become infected and sustain damage from pests. Infection can typically be eliminated by cutting off infected pieces, and pesticides should be able to take care of any pests. People with pets and children who keep an indoor Madagascar palm should bear in mind that the plant is poisonous, and preventative measures should be taken to prevent any ingestion.